Real or Fake? Impressive May Fantasy Baseball Performances
With May coming to an end, not only is it time to grab all the sunscreen and shorts that you can, it's time to evaluate some of the more impressive Fantasy Baseball performances. I preach every year that you never want to be on the tail end of a hot streak, whether it is hanging onto a player too long or buying said player in a trade. When you get to the season-end numbers, a player will actually perform worse after the hot streak to get to that number. Basically, if a player finishes with a .300 AVG but hit .400 for May, that means he hit around .275 the rest of the season. Not only did you get a player well below the hot streak, he's actually even a lesser version than his year-end numbers suggest. With that in mind, here are a six-pack of impressive May numbers and the call on whether they're real or fake.
May Fantasy Baseball Performances
Brandon Crawford, SF – Crawford has always been a value favorite of mind for the middle infield spot. However, while his .305 AVG is fun, and his torrid May included a .412/15/4/20 line, Crawford has never hit over .275 and topped 14 home runs once. Crawford also carries a .301 career BABIP with it sitting at .462 in May! Crawford is simply is a scorching hot stretch. He's hitting the ball to all fields with great contact and a high HR/FB rate. Crawford is going to fall back soon… and hard… sell if you can.
Andrelton Simmons, LAA – Known for his defense, many dismissed Simmons' 2017 "breakout." I put that in quotes because a .278/77/14/69/19 isn't amazing, but it's quite valuable in any league of 12 teams or more with a MI spot. Simmons is hitting .335 this year with 32/4/32/5 with .356/15/1/17/3 in May. The interesting part is that Simmons' Hard% and HR/FB were down by a decent amount in May. Not surprisingly, to offset those numbers, his BABIP was .353, and his career average is .282 (finished .291 last year). Simmons is an on base machine and better than people realize, but he's obviously been very fortunate in finding holes in May.
Justin Verlander, HOU – Everyone knows that Verlander won't finish with a 1.11 ERA or especially his 0.86 mark in May, but just how far back will he fall? Your first assumption would be Verlander's 3.49 xFIP. That would lead towards the thought that Verlander is going to pitch much worse the rest of the way. Not so fast. Verlander is posting his best K% (32.3), BB% (5.0) and SOBB (27.4) of his career. While the BABIP (.210) and LOB% (90.9) are lucky and the reasons behind the high xFIP, Verlander isn't going to fall off a cliff in either. Verlander is capable of a BABIP in the .240 range and a LOB% around 80. While that certainly is regression, it's not enough to worry about his future, and it might not even be enough to push his ERA over 2.00.
Jake Arrieta, PHI – Arrieta in the midst of a strange season. After seeing his ERA increase each of the past two seasons with a 3.53 mark last year and 4.11 xFIP, he has a 2.16 ERA through 10 starts. Unlike Verlander though, there is legitimate concern and reason behind the 3.99 xFIP, which actually was slightly higher in May at 4.03 despite the 0.90. Sell.him.now!
It's simple and two-fold: Arrieta has career worst 17.2 K% and 9.0 SOBB marks. Those are normally associated with fringe starters in the majors. He also has a HR/FB% way down at 4.3, although his extremely low 26.9 FB% certainly helps limit the opportunities. Nevertheless, a strikeout rate that low and fortunate home run rate that should increase with warm weather in that Philly bandbox points to regression coming. Arrieta certainly has Fantasy value, but he's no longer an ace.
Aaron Nola, PHI – Nola always had the ability, he just struggled with health and consistency early in his career. It appears 2018 is his breakout with a 2.27 ERA and 6-2 record through 11 starts. Coming off a May with a 1.91 ERA, Nola is dealing. His season-long xFIP is 3.15, as Nola has a BABIP 38 points under his career average of .306, but the May mark was actually quite good at 2.22. Don't worry too much about the BABIP, as top-end pitchers regularly carry impressive marks, and .268 wouldn’t even rank inside the 10 best last year (Lance Lynn led with .244). That's where xFIP can get hung up with metrics, as Nola has a low Hard% of 25.1 and rarely lets up fly balls (28.2 percent). With a nice 18.4 SOBB to boot, regression isn't much of a concern for Nola.
Caleb Smith, MIA – Smith has a terrific 29.9 K% but a SOBB of 18.6 thanks to his high walk rate. That's a significant concern for any pitcher. In May, Smith had a 2.60 ERA with a 16.4 SOBB, down from his 20.7 mark in April and a .254 BABIP, resulting in a 4.10 xFIP, which was actually up from his 3.73 mark in April. All of those numbers tell us that Smith is simply rolling through a hot stretch, and he did get the Mets and Padres during May as well as an underperforming Reds team. Smith has Fantasy value for sure, especially with the strikeouts, but his ERA will rise and the walks continue to mount.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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